Western strategy in the face of the cost of getting bogged down

If Russia was forced to give up the capture of kyiv at the beginning of April, Western sanctions have so far not prevented it from continuing its military operation in eastern and southern Ukraine. For their part, the United States and Europe are still stepping up measures to isolate Moscow as well as military aid to the Ukrainian army, trying as best they can to curb the impact on their economies.

Four months after the start of the war in Ukraine, Western unity in support of kyiv has not failed. New proof of its unfailing support: after weeks of discussions, the EU granted it, on Thursday 23 June, the status of candidate for membership.

Considering the Russian invasion as a major threat to the security of Europe, the EU and the United States have, since the beginning of the conflict, imposed heavy sanctions against the Russian power and provided kyiv with military aid which is turned out to be crucial. However, this strategy has not so far overcome the determination of Vladimir Putin, who is continuing his invasion of eastern and southern Ukraine, and is weighing heavily on the finances of Western powers.

Inflation and shortages

At the beginning of June, the European Union adopted a sixth set of sanctions targeting Russia. These measures, which further increase the pressure on the banks and on Russian officials, include for the first time an embargo on Russian oil, the country’s main source of income. According to the International Energy Agency, the European market represents nearly 50% of Russian crude oil exports for only 29% of European imports, although certain countries such as Hungary, Finland or Bulgaria are extremely dependent on it.

For the 27, the aim of this new set of sanctions always remains the same: “to have the greatest possible impact on the Russian economy, while limiting the consequences for companies and citizens of the EU”, explains the Commission. European on its site.

However, this embargo, which should lead to the cessation of 90% of European purchases of Russian oil before 2023, is already fueling galloping inflation which is severely affecting citizens. Energy prices have risen sharply in recent months reaching 39.2% annual increase in May in the Eurozone, according to Eurostat data. In Europe as in the United States, inflation also broke records last month reaching 8.1% and 8.6%, in annual rate, arousing the fear, more and more present, of a global recession.

In addition to energy, food inflation has risen sharply. The blocking of Ukrainian grain exports has generated an explosion in prices and could lead to major shortages in Africa and the Middle East, which are among its first buyers.


The specter of recession

“The calculation of inflation corresponds to an anticipation of the relationship between supply and demand” recalls Anna Creti, professor of economics at Paris Dauphine University and specialist in energy issues. “The inflationary trend had started with the economic recovery after the Covid-19 pandemic and then increased with the war and the sanctions. In Europe, it is now estimated that 3 of the 8% of headline inflation is due to the announcement of energy sanctions against Russia.

“The leaders are well aware that this is a heavy trend that will last and be very expensive. Nevertheless, it is not a rash decision because Westerners know that the cost of sanctions remains low compared to that of direct military involvement in the conflict”.

While inflation in Europe and the United States is breaking records, for the time being it remains well below the surge in prices in Russia, which is around 17%. To remedy this, the United States Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank announced a rate hike. In this way, they hope to slow down consumption to bring about a drop in prices. An initiative that is not without risk because an excessive slowdown in the economy could cause a recession.

European and American leaders have also announced support measures such as tax relief, price controls in certain sectors or even aid directed at the most precarious.

>> Read also: The Russian economy is holding up, but for how long?

The cost of war

In this context of increased pressure on the populations and their leaders, the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, called on Sunday, June 19, the Western powers which supply heavy weapons to the Ukrainian army to maintain this commitment.

“We must not relax our support for Ukraine, even if the costs are high, not only for military support but also due to rising energy and food prices,” he said. , warning that the war “could last for years”.

The United States, by far Ukraine’s largest arms supplier, announced on Thursday 23 June 450 million dollars (427.5 million euros) in additional military aid to kyiv for a total of more than 6 .1 billion dollars (5.8 billion euros). A few days earlier, the German government had for its part indicated that it wanted to release more than one billion euros in support of the Ukrainian army.

But “the Americans are sending new stocks which they have in considerable numbers while the Europeans have much smaller stocks and they have to think about their defence”, underlines General Dominique Trinquand, former head of the French military mission to the United Nations.

“Germany and the countries of the East offer in priority equipment dating from the Soviet Union. France, for its part, has relatively little old equipment because many things have already been given to the African armies. The 18 Caesar guns offered to Ukraine is a real sacrifice because it is new, expensive equipment which reduces the military arsenal of the French army”.

On June 13, Emmanuel Macron announced that he wanted to “reassess” the 2019-2025 military programming law, saying that France had “entered a war economy” likely to last. For its part, kyiv insistently demands the sending of more powerful weapons to repel the Russian invader.

“Volodymyr Zelensky’s argument, which consists in saying that Europe is the next step for Vladimir Putin, is very questionable, because such a conflict would cause a frontal clash with NATO”, analyzes Pierre Conesa, a former senior official at the ministry. of the defense.

“However, Europe cannot afford to let Russia win because Moscow could then repeat this kind of military operation against other of its neighbors in the name of the defense of the Russian-speaking populations. Europe must allow Ukraine to resist while considering the future. Because Russia is not going to disappear during this conflict and it will be necessary, at some point, to sit down around the table”, concludes the author of “Vendre war – The military-intellectual complex” (Paperback).

Consider the after

While the two camps remain on their positions, displaying their determination to win the conflict, some voices are raised in Europe and the United States to outline the beginnings of a political resolution.

This is the case of the former head of American diplomacy, Henry Kissinger, who called for territorial concessions from Ukraine, or even the German philosopher, Jürgen Habermas, for whom the escalation military poses a threat to the prospect of negotiations.

At the beginning of June, Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed that we should not “humiliate Russia so that the day the fighting stops, we can build a way out through diplomatic channels”. Remarks rejected en bloc by supporters of a hard line vis-à-vis Moscow, in the forefront of which Ukraine. “Calls to avoid humiliating Russia can only humiliate France (…) We would all do better to focus on how to put Russia in its place” reacted Dmytro Kuleba, the head of diplomacy Ukrainian.

“The question of negotiations is extremely sensitive; all the more so since a political solution, the Minsk agreements, was already supposed to make it possible, seven years ago now, to put an end to the war between the pro-Russian and the Ukrainian forces in the Donbass” recalls General Dominique Trinquand.

“The Ukrainians are not going to want to approach negotiations as long as they think they can recover this eastern region as well as the contour of the Sea of ​​Azov. A highly unlikely scenario because they are unable today to stop the Russian progress, which, although slow, continues. It is only when the Ukrainians are certain that they can no longer advance that they will negotiate so as not to lose more territory. On the Russian side, which has already revised its military ambitions to the only way to save face is to ensure the conquest of Donbass”.

In an interview with France 24 broadcast on June 17, Volodymyr Zelensky’s adviser, Mikhaïlo Podolyak, once again defended the objective of a total reconquest of Ukraine. “If the Russians were to stay on this or that part of our territory they would continue to attack, it would be a long war which would last a year, two years or more”. According to the president’s adviser, the Ukrainian army would be able to prevail over a period of “three to six months”, provided that the West accelerates its deliveries of heavy weapons.

Mykhaïl Podolyak gave an interview to France 24.


Mykhaïl Podolyak gave an interview to France 24. © France 24